Ten years after the first Avatar movie became the highest-grossing film in history, a sequel is set to arrive this December. Avatar: The Way Of Water has seen its fair share of delays, setbacks, and cultural dismissal, but we’ll actually be able to judge it on its own merits this year. That said, James Cameron is having a field day shitting on all the blockbuster entertainment that crept up while swimming with Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet.
Speaking to The New York Times, Cameron had some choice words for superheroes: Grow up. For the Way Of Water, his main characters Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) are grown-ups, like actual grown-ups, with kids and everything. Cameron made that part of the story because he wants “to do the thing that other people aren’t doing.”
“When I look at these big, spectacular films — I’m looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college,” Cameron said. “They have relationships, but they really don’t. They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.”
Worthington got even more specific. “Jim wrote this family in a great way where not only are the stakes life and death, but the conflicts are quite domestic,” he said. “You’re still having these arguments with kids that you have every day, like, ‘Pick up your clothes, eat your food,’ even though the world is at war.”
Having adult characters that act like adults with genuine relationships isn’t the only thing Cameron’s doing differently. He’s also making sure the water in his movie looks good. However, when asked what was gained by actually submerging actors in water, unlike Aquaman and the upcoming Little Mermaid, Cameron wasn’t afraid to dismiss his parent studio’s efforts.
New York Times: Movies like Aquaman and the upcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid take place underwater but don’t actually submerge the actors. Avatar: The Way of Water does, and the actors had to learn how to hold their breath for several minutes to shoot some of its undersea sequences. What’s gained from doing it for real?
James Cameron: Oh, I don’t know, maybe that it looks good? Come on! You want it to look like the people are underwater, so they need to be underwater. It’s not some gigantic leap — if you were making a western, you’d be out learning how to ride a horse. I knew Sam was a surfer, but Sig and Zoe and the others weren’t particularly ocean-oriented folks. So I was very specific about what would be required, and we got the world’s best breath-hold specialists to talk them through it.
He’s not wrong. The early footage of Way Of Water looks fantastic, while the less said about that Little Mermaid trailer, the better. Something about how hair moves in these CGI Atlantises feels so unnatural. It’s a tell on par with Tom Hanks’ eyes in The Polar Express: The audience knows nothing they’re seeing is real, even if they’re enjoying it.
It’s starting to feel like if anyone’s going to get us out of this mess, it’s James Cameron. We wish him luck on his quest. Avatar: The Way Of Water opens on December 16.